Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina makes candid admission over ‘luck’

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Elena Rybakina has opened up on doubting herself after winning Wimbledon last year. The 23-year-old upset third seed and title favourite Ons Jabeur to lift the biggest title of her career and recently made her second Major final in less than seven months at the Australian Open. And Rybakina has now confessed that she questioned whether she just got “lucky” at SW19 before proving herself wrong in Melbourne.

Rybakina was something of a surprise Wimbledon champion last year, defeating two former Grand Slam champions in Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep en route to the final where she overcame Jabeur from a set down to lift her third and biggest career title. The Kazakh struggled to back the result up initially as the WTA didn’t award any ranking points at Wimbledon, meaning she remained at No 23 in the world despite winning a Major.

But a run to the recent Australian Open final finally saw the Kazakh make her long-awaited top 10 debut and gave her the confidence boost she needed to prove that Wimbledon wasn’t a fluke. “Of course, Wimbledon was a great result but you have these doubts, like, maybe it was just luck, or it was a really good draw or something. So you have kind of these thoughts,” the 23-year-old told Eurosport ahead of this week’s Abu Dhabi Open.

Looking back on her run at Melbourne Park last month – where she also upset world No 1 Iga Swiatek in the quarter-final before a three-set final defeat to Aryna Sabalenka – Rybakina added: “That was a great result. It just gives you more confidence to play other tournaments.”

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The three-time title winner also addressed the tough period after Wimbledon, where she lost early in her first two tournaments following her Grand Slam victory. “I think, of course, when you don’t play the way you wanted to play, you don’t have the results which you kind of expect maybe after, [the doubts creep in],” Rybakina explained, going on to address the lack of ranking points on offer at Wimbledon.

“The scheduling was really tough for me because I didn’t get the points [from Wimbledon] so I was chasing the WTA Finals and I was trying to play many tournaments. Of course, after Wimbledon, many things happened and it was not easy to go and play everything; my preparation for hard courts was also cut. It’s just experience at the end of the day, every week we play, it’s something new you learn about yourself.”

While Rybakina is finally into the world’s top 10, she is set to top the qualifying event at the upcoming WTA 500 event in Doha because the entry list cut-off came before she jumped up the rankings, with a host of top players who were ranked above her also opting to sign up. And the Kazakh said she was looking forward to avoiding a similar situation in the future when asked if her new ranking was helping.

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“Probably yes, because you can know your schedule better [when you have a higher ranking],” she said. “For example, now in Doha, I am still in qualies, so you cannot really predict, but if you’re top 10, you can plan easier. You have this advantage sometimes not to play the first round, so you have a few more extra days to practise. If you’re travelling, that helps.”

Now full of confidence from her Australian Open run, Rybakina fired a warning to her rivals as she admitted she thought she could contend on any surface. “I feel pretty well on all surfaces, and for me, it’s actually also fun to change the surface; that’s the beauty of the sport, to adapt all the time,” she said.

“I feel confident on the grass, which I actually never thought I’m going to be that good on. Because as a junior I played maybe one or two times and it was not successful so when I started to work with my coach I said I don’t really like grass, I don’t know how to play on it. But in the end, it’s for now my best achievement. My first WTA trophy was on clay, so I think I can play on all surfaces.”

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